This is a 'transit visibility zone.' Aliens living in it might be able to see us.

For centuries, human beings have looked at the night sky, hoping to see aliens.

Now, a group of scientists is trying to find out where aliens would have to be in order to see us.

Researchers from universities in the U.K. and Germany have identified nine planets that are "ideally placed" for their resident astronomers to detect Earth using the same methods Earth stargazers use to detect them, according to a new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


The astronomers looked for planets on which observers could view Earth's transit across the sun — the period where, from their perspective, our planet moves in front of its home star, causing it to dim slightly.

An illustration of where an extraterrestrial observer would have to be to notice one of the planets in our solar system passing in front of the sun. Image by 2MASS/A. Mellinger/R. Wells.

The study builds on the work of astrophysicist Rene Heller, who proposed the idea that intelligent extraterrestrial life located in these "transit visibility zones" might already know about Earth in a paper published last year in the journal Astrobiology.

"We've expanded on this by including all of the solar system planets and looking at the known and expected exoplanets in these regions," study lead author Robert Wells, a Queen's University Belfast Ph.D. student, says.

The work was made possible by the revival of the Kepler space telescope, which malfunctioned and was nearly left for dead in 2013.

Instead, engineers used sunlight pressure to stabilize the stellar eye later that year. It has since discovered more than 500 exoplanets — joining the more than 2,300 total detected in the telescope's eight-year run.

A digital illustration of a gas giant planet and moon discovered by Kepler. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt via Getty Images.

The next challenge? Finding where ET might actually be listening for that call.

None of the planets identified in the paper have the conditions to support life. The researchers expect to discover more worlds in the prime Earth-viewing zone in the coming months.

"Our hope is to find some planets which are potentially habitable and can see transits of Earth, which I think will be the best targets for SETI," Wells says.

Here's hoping when do we track our galactic neighbors down, they're not the kind we need Will Smith to deal with.

(Thankfully, we have Will Smith — just in case.)

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less